The Anthropocene Reviewed Reviewed
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I'm typing this review as I sip green tea out of my fun coffee mug decorated with pictures of mugs of coffee and synonyms of coffee: Espresso, Java Time, Cappuccino. I received this mug as a gift from friend Bobby in high school. It was a thank you for some favor I did. I remember he asked me if I liked coffee before he gave it to me. I forget what exactly the favor I had done for him was but even at the time I remember thinking it wasn't the sort of favor one needed to reciprocate with a gift. My High School friend Pavleen also owes me a favor. I forget what I did for him, but in my yearbook he wrote "Don't forget about the favor I owe you". I generally look back on my past self (anything more than a few hours really) as an unreliable piece of shit but recalling these anecdotes makes me think I might be biased. I'm at least an unreliable unreliable piece of shit.
This is what every episode of John Green's podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed is like. A sprawling trail of associations that leaves you forgetting what the original point was but feeling a new sense of connection to the objects around you and the past. As John Green will remind you Faulkner told us: "The past is never dead. It's not even past".
This podcast came to my attention as an Allen Wu recommendation. Allen also introduced me to: Los Campesinos, Mitski, St. Vincent and Python 3. By carefully letting Allen know everything he tells me about is the best thing ever I've conditioned him to let me know about all the best stuff. But this article isn't about 4.5 star Allen recommendations but about John Green's podcast the Allen Wu recommendation.
I remember listening to it for the first time driving with my girlfriend, Rhiannon. Recommendation in hand I just put it on the car aux. My first impression was it was a strange album cover art. As John Greene's calm voice came over the speaker, telling me about about Grey Alien's origin's in the zeigeist and his own childhood fear that everyone around him was an alien decieving him, I realized my expectations had been flummoxed. I quickly apologized and handed the aux back to Rhiannon. Later as I moved into our new apartment together I listened to episode after episode as I drove back and forth from my old house with Math department friends and Rhiannon's old house with OSU housing strangers. Each episode was a calming bite sized delight. At first I skipped the ads but then I came to enjoy the strange weaving of product placement into the middle of each episode. John advertised for the same companies over and over. But each time he sold it with a new absurd premise. Most podcasts compell me to frantically skip 15 seconds repeatedly two or three times. But with the Anthropocene Reviewed I let it spin me into a meditative trance throughout the precisely just shy of 30 minutes episodes.
Because I did no research before indulging in Allen Wu's recommendation I did not realize it was even by a person who was famous independent of the project, let alone John Greene. His introduction where he says "I'm John Greene and this is the Anthropocene Reviewed" probably should have tipped me off. But someone John's name is just generic enough that it didn't flag my recognition. I remember thinking "this anecdote is familiar" when John told his anecdote about his old boss recommending Harvey; a movie I myself watched with my dad when I was much younger. One of the best movies my dad got from Blockbuster for us. Or maybe that was already post Netflix. It didn't click until John said "When I was writing the Fault in Our Stars...", when I immedietly felt like an idiot.
Like all nonfiction media intended for entertainment, its at its best when you're not really familiar with the subject matter. But somehow the episodes on Tetris and Mariokart still managed to teach my somethings. For readers who don't know, I was #6 on the now defunct TetrisFriends. Once at Google I told a coworker that I didn't think I had enough domain knowledge about anything to write a book. And then later in the conversation when Mariokart came up and I pontificated on which carts were the best, and at what place threshold you should try to improve on a banana, he said he thought I could write a book about Mariokart. Which is perhaps true, if people were interested in my deep insights into Doubledash and Wii Mariokart. I'm not universally a Luddite when it comes to Nintendo games, though smash ended with Melee. In my second year of college when I drank coffee for the first time and finished the essay I was working on just under two hours later I proceeded to play Mariokart 8 all night. In my mind it represents a substantial improvement in the franchise artistically. The stages were so whimsical and bright, the designs Escherian. Typing this out almost makes me want to run out and get the latest Nintendo console.
I'm a sucker for art that weaves together quaint trivia and deep emotional truths. Some highlight episodes for me are the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, Hawaiian Pizza and Geese, the only episode I played twice to share with my girlfriend, because of our shared hatred of the water fowl. I recommend the Anthropocene Reviewed to anyone who enjoys podcasts or learning things they'll immedietly forget. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.